Great first machine, definitely buy secondhand, makes a nice coffee
Positive Product Points
I have the stainless steel version (as there was a cheaper version with plastic on the housing too), and it looks nice, if not a bit small.
Negative Product Points
The system for holding the basket into the group handle is poor. You have to slide this plastic thing over it when you want to knock the grinds out. The drip tray could hold more. Only a thermoblock machine.
This is a very popular machine in New Zealand, and the new price is such that many people seem to get it for wedding presents. I purchased my one secondhand from a couple that received it at thier wedding, but then only used it a few times. Great condition secondhand ones are in the $US40 - 60 range.
I use it for milk coffees, so cannot comment on the espresso performance. I also use a Mazzer Super Jolly grinder with it, and often with home roasted beans or store roasted Monmouth beans from Covent Garden in London. Add to this I use full 4% fat organic milk ... definitely the Roma is the weak point in the chain, but still I get great coffee.
This machine is small, and the steam production is not amazing. Best to let it run a little steaming into a spare cup first. I use a Jura C5 for steaming at work, and it is still a thermoblock, but produces much much better steam.
As a first machine, a secondhand Cafe Roma is ideal (a secondhand Gagia Classic would be better, but considerably more expensive). The only reason I wouldnt buy another, is because after this, if you used it regularly, you'd only want to replace it with a bigger machine (ideally boiler based).
My machine must be 5 years old now, and so far it has functioned perfectly.